One was my house growing up, which was full of memorabilia from my parents’ three years living in northern Japan before I was born — including books, figurines (including The Seven Gods of Luck), and my father’s abiding love of samurai movies.

More specifically, I read an article a few years ago in New Moon Magazine, which my daughters subscribed to, called “Deadly Accessories.” It told the story of a historical figure named Chiyome Mochizuki who started a school at her estate during the Japanese Civil War era (the sixteenth century). Supposedly, she was training miko — shrine maidens, as anyone familiar with Shinto (orInuyasha) knows. In fact, Lady Chiyome was training an army of kunoichi: female spies, bodyguards, and assassins. I thought, Wow! That’s an amazing story! Someone should write that!

The other was my youngest daughter.

Now, I should explain up front: I’m not afraid of heights, not really.

It’s just that, like Terry Pratchett’s wonderful protagonist Tiffany Aching, I have a well-developed respect for depths.

It’s funny, then, that I’ve written a book about climbing — about a young girl who loves nothing more than being as high up in the air as she can be. How did that happen?

I grew up on the San Francisco Bay in a town that had a long, long breakwater. It was a wall of crumbled concrete and small boulders that kept the shore from washing out the Golden Gate. When I was twelve, a group of friends and I were hanging out at the top of the breakwater, playing the kinds of games that pre-teen boys play. We called one “Don’t Fall.”

The idea of the game was that you’d sneak up behind another boy, grab his shirt collar, push him, shout “Don’t fall!” and then pull him back.

Entertaining stuff.

Now, I was the biggest in this group of kids by a long shot. The smallest, my friend Jon’s brother Chris, was two years younger, and I was about one and a half times his size. To have the effect the game required, he decided to take a running start, pushing me with both hands. “Don’t fall!”

Well, I was one and a half times his size: he couldn’t hold me.

I fell, doing a full somersault on the ten-foot drop down to the rocks below and landing on my back.

Anyone who’s fallen like that can tell you: the fall isn’t the hard part. It’s the landing that’s the problem.

I was fine. The firefighters came and checked me out: bruised, but nothing damaged. Angry, but having learned to respect depths.

(Chris hid from me for days. Jon became a firefighter. I always wonder if that day was part of why.)

When my eldest daughter Sasha came along, she was cautious by nature. So she never brought me back to that breakwater.

But my youngest daughter Julia always seemed to leap first, and then figure out where she was going to land. Not easy for someone like me with that well-developed respect for depths.

One day when she was about four, I was watching her in a playground about half a mile from where Chris had pushed me. She was playing with her friend Lucas, some wild, two-person game of tag.

Lucas’s mom and I were chatting, when suddenly she said, “Where are the kids?”

We heard a call from above us. They were way up a small pine tree on the edge of the playground. Waving.

When my heart had dislodged itself from my throat, I asked Julia and Lucas to come down as carefully as they could.

Which, thankfully, they did.

So that article I talked about, combined with Julia’s trip up the tree, sparked the idea for the initial scene of Risuko. A few weeks later, I wrote a draft of what is now the first chapter of the book. The girl up in the pine tree didn’t have a name, and I didn’t know where the story was going. That would take a long, long time. But I knew that she was going to be a kunoichi.

I also knew that climbing was going to give her a sense of freedom and excitement unlike anything else in her life.

And that’s how a guy who has a respect for depths came to write a novel about a girl who loves nothing more than heights.


About Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale

Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale
by David Kudler
: Stillpoint Digital Press
Publication Date: June 15th 2016
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Adventure


Can one girl win a war?

My name is Kano Murasaki, but most people call me Risuko. Squirrel.

I am from Serenity Province, though I was not born there.

My nation has been at war for a hundred years, Serenity is under attack, my family is in disgrace, but some people think that I can bring victory. That I can be a very special kind of woman.

All I want to do is climb.

My name is Kano Murasaki, but everyone calls me Squirrel.


Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan — or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems.

Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is.

Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) is a young, fatherless girl, more comfortable climbing trees than down on the ground. Yet she finds herself enmeshed in a game where the board is the whole nation of Japan, where the pieces are armies, moved by scheming lords, and a single girl couldn’t possibly have the power to change the outcome. Or could she?

Historical adventure fiction appropriate for young adult and middle-grade readers.


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About the Author

David Kudler is a writer and editor living just north of the Golden Gate Bridge with his wife, actress, teacher, and author Maura Vaughn, their author-to-be daughters, and their apparently non-literary cats.

A published author, he is currently working on Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale, a young-adult historical adventure novel set in sixteenth century Japan.

He serves as publisher for Stillpoint Digital Press. Since 1999, he has overseen the publications program of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, for which he has edited three posthumous volumes of Campbell’s previously unpublished work (Pathways to Bliss,Myths of Light and Sake & Satori) and managed the publication of over fifty print, ebook, print, audio, and video titles, including the third edition of the seminal The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Currently, David serves as vice-president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.

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